My Secret Santa Mix, 2005

  1. I Used to Hate Country Music

  2. Cowboy Junkies: Mining for Gold
  3. Willard Grant Conspiracy: Child's Prayer
  4. Fishbone: Change*
  5. Allison Moorer: Is Heaven Good Enough For You?
  6. Buddy Miller: Does My Ring Burn Your Finger?
  7. Neko Case & Her Boyfriends: Thrice All American
  8. Freakwater: Lorraine
  9. Kasey Chambers: Dam
  10. Todd Snider: Play a Train Song
  11. Hayseed with Emmylou Harris: Farther Along
  12. Johnny Cash & The Tennessee Two: Get Rhythm
  13. Flogging Molly: Drunken Lullabies*
  14. Sixteen Horsepower: Ruthie Lingle
  15. Drive-by Truckers: Danko/Manuel
  16. Calexico: Trigger
  17. Grant-Lee Phillips: Mona Lisa
  18. Alison Krauss & Union Station: The Boy Who Wouldn't Hoe Corn
Author Comments: 

* Not country. Couldn't resist. Especially since I've had a Fishbone song on every Secret Santa mix so far.

Cloned From: 

I had to set your disc aside after the mine explosion in America (West Virginia.) And then another couple mining disasters (at least one turned out well.) I admit that I get choked up under normal circumstances when I listen to "Joe Hill," let alone "Dark as a Dungeon," "Granite Mills" and "Blue Sky Mine." So now it is April

Cowboy Junkies: Mining for Gold
I know this song well and it might have been the first crack in my armour against country music. It wasn't my first cd nor my first digitally recorded cd but it was the first great digital recording I heard. Margo Timmins voice certainly deserved it. [ ...and now I'm pausing the cd because there's no way I'm going to wrap up all that I want to say about this track in ninety seconds...] Recorded in a church you can hear the space itself breath. It sounds like the heat is on and you can hear the creaking of the radiators expanding in the background. If you listen closely to the very end you can hear Michael Timmins count off "2, 3..." as Ms. Timmins steps back and they go right into "Misguided Angel." I love the fact that Cowboy Junkies had to balance themselves around the single mike, no mixing. The instruments and vocals are all of apiece, there's no bleeding one into the other because of the mix but you can hear such things as the bass vibrating the snare. Peter Timmins is still learning how to play drums. Such a wonderful, delicate recording and all of it done in a single day. And then there's the crushing content.

Willard Grant Conspiracy: Child's Prayer
Wow! That was a really nice entry guitar strum in the right ear. Headphones help remind me that there can be multiple guitars playing at once. I don't really understand guitars and often fall prey to the apocryphal Joe Walsh-type failure to realize that it isn't all being done by one guitarist. I would've liked more of the "Who will ride" backing vocalists... I think the song comes together then.

Fishbone: Change*
I know this song, too. It was really weird. I read the start of the insert that came with the cd, enough to see the title and the first track before I forced myself to look away. So when this track started the guitar didn't sound all that out of place but I knew that I knew this song. I had no idea where. On the original album it follows an angry song about a Howard Beach racial incident... here it didn't. It was the weirdest sense of vertigo. Fishbone is a thrilling stew of... a whole lotta things. I had no idea that they had this in them.
I love songs inspired by Arizona's refusal to make Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday a holiday.

Allison Moorer: Is Heaven Good Enough For You?
What is that drone at the beginning? It made me expect, if not bagpipes, then something a little tartan. I love artists who aren't scared to take things at such a relaxed tempo and (at least at the start) have their vocals so exposed. Perhaps it's this relaxed attitude that keeps me from fully engaging. And the drone is back for the close out.
Sinead, you rock my world.

Buddy Miller: Does My Ring Burn Your Finger?
I've seen Mr. Miller open for Emmylou Harris (and then play guitar in her Spyboy band.) He was excellent and it might be the memory of that wide open side that makes me feel this song has been compressed in the mix. But I like the song and the lope at which it travels.
I admit that after hearing Brian Blade play live everything seems to be compressed.

Neko Case & Her Boyfriends: Thrice All American
Okay, the opening bars of this convinced me that Buddy Miller was sufferering from compression. I really hate the use of the word "Wal-Mart" as it closes. The song was feeling timeless until that moment. I'm being petty. Very nice. Especially the shiny mandolin touches.

Freakwater: Lorraine
Back to the Moorer type tempo. That woman in the right ear is almost yodeling. That is really excellent. It's wonderful how they don't crowd the mic even when they're singing softly. Beautiful blending of two voices that don't blend.
There has to be a better way to say that. It's sort of like Anon4 and their dissimilar voices.
Note to self: borrow the Don Walser cd from my mom that i gave her several years ago.

Kasey Chambers: Dam
Is she Australian? Once I read the insert I realized that I had always assumed that it was "K.C. Chambers." These sure are a bunch of wide open, gently mixed sparse arrangements here so far. And I love that of (1,2,3...) eight songs so far, more than half of them have been by women (and one by Julie Miller's husband.) Tremendous.

Todd Snider: Play a Train Song
When he says "train song" you better tell the drummer to believe it. Do I recognize the backing vocalist? It could just be the timbre/voicing.

Hayseed with Emmylou Harris: Farther Along
Okay, I know this backing vocalist. Emmylou is just so awesome. She tours, she records for other people's projects, tours, puts out her own product, tours, puts together the best bands, tours, gives her time to noble causes and then she hits the road... and looks gorgeous doing it. She's going to die with her boots on. I love this song but I am amazed that anyone has her contribute vocals to their projects: she's just so much better than everyone else. And everyone knows it.
Aaron Neville and Sinead O'Connor are similarly gifted.
Who knew that somebody with the body of a longshoreman could make Linda Rondstadt sound sick?

Johnny Cash & The Tennessee Two: Get Rhythm
Have I mentioned that Johnny Cash's favourite vocalist was Sister Rosetta Tharpe? Well she was and that speaks volumes for Johnny Cash. I love the way he bends the word "you" in this song. I think it's too bad that Johnny Cash is filed away in the "Country" section. For me, more than the alt. country vibe, it is the arranging style that thematically links these songs. That and the progressive aesthetic. Anyone who says that Johnny Cash didn't swing or preach the gospel ought to keep this in the back of their mind. Nice guitar solo. Nice guitar work overall.
I get the feeling that Johnny Cash thought of himself as black.
I also feel sorry for this drummer.

Flogging Molly: Drunken Lullabies*
Yikes, here come the drunken yobbos. They scare me. But the fiddler in the left ear is reassuring. There is something about such well-performed, polished punk-informed performances that is a little weird. Don't get me wrong: this is good. There's just something about it...

Sixteen Horsepower: Ruthie Lingle
I loved this vibe and I'm relieved to learn that it is "Ruthie Lingle" and not whatever insane mondegreen I had come up with to replace that line.

Drive-by Truckers: Danko/Manuel
This depressed me even before I read the title. If I'm recalling correctly Richard Manuel killed himself while on tour and Rick Danko was in such denial that he claimed that it was an experiment with knots gone horribly wrong. I have a thing for suicides. Really depressed.
On a lighter note, I have a theory that Dr. Teeth & the Electric Mayhem are based upon The Band's The Last Waltz appearance.

Calexico: Trigger
This just didn't work for me. Weird tapping drums and cymbal. Maybe it's just the hangover from the previous song.

Grant-Lee Phillips: Mona Lisa
The accordion here makes me think of Cowboy Junkies. I have no idea what's up with the left ear.

Alison Krauss & Union Station: The Boy Who Wouldn't Hoe Corn
I admit it: I was glad when the guitar intro was finally over. Get out! This isn't Alison Krauss. Is it? Well, you get credit (and a lot of it) for another female artist. Five minutes in and I can hear Ms. Krauss's voice. Who was the guy singing? For being about six years old Alison Krauss puts together some nasty bands.
In some brilliant alternative future Ms. Krauss, Bela Fleck, Sam Bush and I have formed a detective agency/band operating out of post-apocalyptic San Francisco.
If you haven't listened to Steve Earle yet you might want to start.

Very nice. I also used to hate country music. Or so I thought. I now realize that it's much more than hunks w/hats. Or much less, thankfully. At least with country music you know that you are going to get emotions. I admit that it took Cowboy Junkies and then Daniel Lanois (and Emmylou Harris) along with John Hiatt to get me over my prejudices. My Tshirt will read: "I was Country when Country had been cool for quite a while." I'm going to need a bigger chest. Thank you for that... and the music. Neat idea, Santa.

Thank you

Odysseus - I too choke up listening to "Joe Hill" especially if it's Paul Robeson's recording.

Knowing that warms my soul. Robeson is certainly a force-multiplier for my emotions through his touched-by-the-Lord talent, his repertoire and his life story.

There is an excellent reissue of Songs of Free Men that was released for the centennial of his birth. It starts with "Balm in Gilead" and ends two-dozen songs later with "It Ain't Necessarily So." There is the most wonderful, sensitive accompaniment by Lawrence Brown (not the trombonist) and the Columbia Orchestra.

I wish more people new about Paul Robeson. I wish I knew more about Paul Robeson. Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier and Danny Glover all wish that they were him. I would love to see a bio pic made starring Denzel Washington. They'd have to use the original source material for the musical performances. There's no one who could do that. (He makes James Earl Jones sound like a squeaky-voiced adolescent.)

I wish that crying came more easily about personal events. Until then social justice will have to do. "Don't waste any time in mourning. Organize!"
'til the blood of your body runs black as the coal....

Thanks for the offer of the mp3, but I already have the recording. I hope Jim and anyone else who might be following this thread will take advantage of it though.

I've never been down a mine, but three of the four main family lines I am descended from were coal mining families. We were miners here in the Hunter Valley (presently the world's no.1 coal exporting region) and before that in Scotland and England. So I have a sentimental bias for mining and union culture.

[I am ashamed to inform you, in case don't follow Australian politics, that almost all the workers rights fought for over decade after decade in Australia have been abolished by our present the-market-is-God government - and I cling to the hope that our apparently toothless Labour Party is holding fire so as to let the government cut its own throat electorally.]

Robeson was surely the basso profundo without peer, and a cultural hero of the union movement. I agree, it would be great to see a biopic - can't see DW in the role however :-)

Am downloading the buddywolfe - will get back to you.

Later: I like the lyric, simple and straightforward, but Buddy Wolfe's 5 minutes plus version strikes me as too repetitive. Not as good a song as 'Mining for Gold'.

Yes, the offer was an example. The "Dark as a Dungeon" was another example and just the best that I could find. Listening to the Weavers' version(s) is the best way to heighten the depths. I think I like every artist who's ever been blacklisted or supported a union... at least it helps. Supposedly Billy Bragg has swallowed some of Joe Hill's ashes. I'm not joking... he certainly does sound like it. I knew better than to insult you by providing a Midnight Oil sample example.

So your forebearers emigrated by choice?

They came by choice (emmigration was 'assisted') but I doubt they really wanted to leave their native land. It was the 1850s-60s, and there was severe 'industrial unrest' on the Scottish coalfields. The Scotsman newspaper of the time tells of strikes over poor pay and conditions, miners being fined (= jailed) for poaching on the laird's estate for food (oddly, they were charged under the Public Tollways Act). One of my families named the humble cottage they built here (and where I lived until I was 5 years old) after the Laird's mansion (Arniston House)in the district they had come from. Whether this was done out of respect or as a nose-thumbing gesture I'm not sure.

Cowboy Junkies: Mining for Gold
This one is easily my favorite song on an album I love across the board. And, if you are going to include it in a mix, I don't believe it's physically possible to do anything but lead with it.

Willard Grant Conspiracy: Child's Prayer
I first heard these guys an on Uncut magazine compilation and was immediately hooked. I think this song is fairly representative of their work, so if you dig the guitar here, expect more of it elsewhere. What's the apocryphal Joe Walsh-type failure? I hope it's at his expense, as I'll never forgive him for the countless times I was trapped listening to him grate his way through Ordinary Average Guys as it droned out of the work soundsystem. Man, that was 15 years ago or so. If I haven't forgiven him yet, I don't think I'm going to.

Fishbone: Change*
I think REM may hold the title for "my favorite band over the longest stretch of time", but Fishbone probably gets the title of "band I hold the most affection for even after they went downhill and then imploded". I've managed to include a Fishbone song on every Secret Santa mix of mine so far, and I don't see that ending anytime soon. REM, on the other hand, have yet to appear, but I think that's mostly because I figure everybody already knows every REM song (except for Swan Swan Hummingbird, perhaps my favorite by them, and likely to appear on a Secret Santa mix in the near future, but don't tell anyone).

Allison Moorer: Is Heaven Good Enough For You?
Perhaps the tartan touch is why it hooked me so. I'm a sucker for that stuff. I can't believe Mooror got me with the old bait-and-switch.

Buddy Miller: Does My Ring Burn Your Finger?
Love this song, and on very short drives I hit the twosome of this song and the subsequent Neko Case song more than any others. Anyway, I first heard this song off a mix and liked it so much I sought out a couple other Buddy Miller albums. Good, but this remains my favorite, and on the two albums I've heard, I like the title tracks best.

Neko Case & Her Boyfriends: Thrice All American
Yeah, I know what you mean about the Walmart line. I forgive her though. Truth be told, I kinda like it, and probably will until it dates (which I hope it does, but I think there might always be a Walmart).

Freakwater: Lorraine
Ah, Anon4, interesting comparison!

Kasey Chambers: Dam
I had to Google Ms. Chambers' country of origin, but yes, Australian she is. As for the women, I love that they're so (relatively) well-represented here, but I think this may be the only genre where I could swing that (update: looking back, I did poorly in 2003, but recovered in 2004).

Todd Snider: Play a Train Song
I'm afraid I can't help you on the backing vocalist - this song also came off another Uncut mix.

Hayseed with Emmylou Harris: Farther Along
Re: Emmylou... Amen.

Johnny Cash & The Tennessee Two: Get Rhythm
The trend in the arrangements is exactly the sort of thing I'm not perceptive enough to notice myself, thanks for pointing it out! I'd like to attribute it to my ear, but the smart money's on dumb luck. For the longest time I didn't give Mr. Cash a chance because I just assumed his music embodied that which I avoided in country music. So I'm late to the party, but better late than never.

Flogging Molly: Drunken Lullabies*
I struggled with the mix this year. I had a loose collection of songs, no thematic linkage, but it just didn't feel right to me the way the 03 and 04 mixes did. Then I hit on the "Used to Hate Country Music" theme, started over, and it was easy and I was happy. I just couldn't part with this one or the Fishbone song though. At least the Fishbone song kinda "fits" (although would would have thought that, given their typical work?). I have no excuses for this one. I just love it.

Sixteen Horsepower: Ruthie Lingle
Very strange (ex?) band, 16Hp. Brooding, Old Testament, apocalypsey For a long time this album (Sackcloth n' Ashes) was my workout music, believe it or not.

Drive-by Truckers: Danko/Manuel
Just an amazing lament, I thought. It's a downer just to think about it. Thanks for bringing me back by mentioning "Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem". Leave it to the muppets to come up with the best band name EVER.

Calexico: Trigger
Y'know what? It doesn't work for me either. I thought it did at the time, but within about a week I was skipping it routinely. My sole regret from this mix.

Grant-Lee Phillips: Mona Lisa
While I do like this song (quite a bit, even), if I had to pick a second-weakest track this would be it.

Alison Krauss & Union Station: The Boy Who Wouldn't Hoe Corn
But at least I finished strong. The singer is George Clooney's O Brother voice, Dan Tyminski. Undignified confession: my favorite AK&US songs are all the ones where he sings the lead. Ugly confession: as much as I enjoy AK in the lead, I prefer her as a backing vocalist. Maybe that's just because I like Tyminski so much though. Wait, are those the same confession? Nonetheless, she is the most amazing six-year-old on the planet (she must be seven by now, right?). You literally can't go wrong with anything she puts her hand to, and that just seems wrong. As for Steve Earle, here are my library options. Which would you recommend to start?

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts! I love that you've been doing this will all the SS mixes.

Definitely start with Steve Earle's The Mountain with Del McCoury. Definitely.

If you'd like I can give you the hard-, soft- or no-sell pitch.

Your pitches are always interesting, so I'd love to hear it. However, it's unnecessary, as your recommendation is enough - I just put in the inter-library loan request.

Excellent! So I'll bite my tongue about the sales job so as to avoid contaminating your sample.

Unless I just can't help myself.

I'll limit myself to this info: If you've already heard Steve Earle it would probably be from the twenty year-old album Guitar Town, the song "Copperhead Road" or the Dead Man Walking compilation. He also wrote the song "Goodbye" on Emmylou Harris's Wrecking Ball.

Twenty years is a long time.

Can't wait! Sometimes the inter-library loan takes awhile, but I'm certainly hoping this is one of the quick ones.

Thank you for noticing. I've loved hearing what's on the ears of others... I hope it's all right.

Willard Grant Conspiracy: Child's Prayer
Supposedly Joe Walsh loved the Beatles (which I believe.) He learned the guitar part to their "And Your Bird Can Sing" before he found out that it was a mix of John and George playing the lick that gave him so much trouble (which I have a tough time believing.) And that is why he is the guitarist he was yesterday and today; here, there and everywhere. Fifteen years is a long time. Don't forget but do forgive.

Fishbone: Change*
I think Fishbone is still hanging around and "making" albums on their own label. But I know what you mean... they were Sly & the Family Stone for the '90s. My favourite R.E.M. is probably "Me in Honey." At least that's what I play over and over again whenever I go through a break up. I have a wide variety of B-sides and alternate versions by them... and some by Fishbone... and a lovely cover of "Don't Go Back to Rockville" by 10,000 Maniacs.

Freakwater: Lorraine
Hey! if you're familiar with Anon4 then: Don-cha think? The blending of voices that don't blend. I'll tell you, their concert was one of the most draining I've ever been to. Great, awesome, terrific, wonderful. But trying to pay attention to the four unique voices for 100 minutes was exhausting.

Kasey Chambers: Dam
For some reason I keep confusing Kasey Chambers and Erin McKeown... hopefully it isn't because of the capital 'K's. Having few women represent is a symptom of society and the music business. Not being aware of this is a symptom of something else.

Johnny Cash & The Tennessee Two: Get Rhythm
I think that your ears know what they're doing. Knowing good music, knowing what you like, is a lot different from being able to articulate it. I think we both know people who can articulate but can't hear. I usually use visual metaphors.

Sixteen Horsepower: Ruthie Lingle
That's one brutal workout.

Alison Krauss & Union Station: The Boy Who Wouldn't Hoe Corn
And I Googled Ms. Krauss. First album in 1987 at the age of 16... no wonder it feels like she has been forever young. Damn! most Grammies for a woman and she's just hitting 35. It took me a while to get used to her voice. Cut glass and blue grass are strange companions. Re: Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? Nice work, Mr. Tyminski. But can you go toe-to-toe with Gillian Welch and Emmylou Harris? Don't feel bad. What a delight that movie was. It's very rare that I'm surprised like that... or that I will immediately rewatch a movie. Great source material always helps. Oh, and Dan Tyminski cites Del McCoury as an influence and inspiration.

Isn't music the best thing to listen to? And one of the best things to talk about...

Re: Joe Walsh - Fair enough, but you do agree it was an awful (and inescapable for awhile there) song?

Re: Anon4 - I've only hear their Christmas album, but it's one of my favorites. For the first time, I can find much more at the library than I can on Amazon. Can I hit you up for recommendations again?

Re: Johnny Cash - Thank you.

Re: 16 Horsepower - Yeah, I almost feel like should trade in my polypro for a hair shirt.

One of the things I've greatly enjoyed over the past couple years is climbing back into music. I've never been much more than a casual listener, but even by that low standard I had gone dormant for a number of years. It's nice to be back, wherever "back" is.

Isn't every other Anon4 album a Christmas album? I think I've only listened to four or five of their albums so I have a much narrower knowledge base. I loved American Angels but I do not recommend it. I love shape-note singing so that album is the equivalent of The London Symphony Orchestra plays the Music of ABBA for me. Loved that album, too.

I'd say try out An English Ladymass. It's the cd of theirs that I decided to keep (along with On Yoolis Night) when I resold two or three of their other albums... none of which I remember in great detail. Or at all, really. But there must've been a reason why I chose to keep An English Ladymass. I'm not too thrilled by chant music which is why I might like the Christmas album the best and why I think I also liked Love's Illusion. The old stuff is better (to my ear) and I'm of the opinion that they're entering The Three Tenors territory in trying to justify making more albums together.

If it ends up being An English Ladymass then check out "Flos regalis" and "Ite missa est" (#s 19 and 20 in your programs at home) to see if you can hear the Freakwater "Lorraine" comparison.

To quote Victor Laszlo: "Welcome back to the fight. This time I know our side will win."

pssst! Don't get any ideas. I'm still Bogie.

An English Ladymass is on the way, and Steve Earle is ready for pickup. I love libraries.

Evidently Mr. Tyminski can go toe to toe with Gwen Stefani.

I woulda called it, "Soggy Backwoods Holler Boys and Girls" if I'da been asked.

Wow, nicely edited! Thanks for passing that along, and sorry about the delay in responding. I've been under a big backlog for awhile.